Saturday, July 30, 2011


Our trip to Yosemite was the last adventure in our two week California crawl. It is truly one of the most BEAUTIFUL places I've ever been.
We did some minor hiking to places like Lower Yosemite Falls.
Most of the hikes in the park are for more seasoned hikers. Luckily my husband got to hike Mist Trail on his own and loved it. While he did that we played at one of our favorite places, Happy Isles.
We were again blessed with BEAUTIFUL weather. I felt a bit guilty as it has been a rainy summer in the Pacific Northwest.
We trekked to Mariposa Grove to stand before the Grizzly Giant but to get there involved a shuttle ride on twisty roads and a hike up a trail crowded with tourists. Utter exaustion started to emerge on our part because it was week two on the road following a rigorous line/crowd/traffic spell at Disney. Was the Grizzly Giant SO spectacular? Yes, but we're so used to beautiful stuff close by without terrible crowds.

We spent some time on the river playing in the water and reading. Thankfully the only bears we encountered were stuffed at the grocery store although Avery claims to have seen one in a tree.

Yosemite is just as magical as Disneyland, if not more, but its strengths lie more in the scenery than in the campground where we stayed. We camped at Crane Flat, about 17 miles from the valley floor at 6200 feet elevation. We purposefully camped there to avoid the crowds in the valley campgrounds but we are used to such pristine camping and were less than pleased with the campground. Its shortcomings included trash all over the campsite, no camp host, few to none flat spots for tents, loud neighbors, septic problems at the bathroom nearest to us which forced them to unload eight porta-potties, no lights in the bathrooms at night, a lack of firewood which people reacted to by hacking away at trees in their campsite, mosquitos(I came home with 14 bites), and little to no ranger presence.

We spent three nights and two full days here instead of the intended five nights five days and when we headed home, we felt good about it. We divided the trip again with an overnight stop in Redding, enjoying swimming in 100 degree heat there. 2,277 miles later, the California leg of our summer complete, we are home and doing absolutely nothing. (Well, not true, I've been blogging about all of our adventures).

The girls loved their adventure, and might have lasted another day at Yosemite. Still, they don't want to go anywhere in the car for awhile, loving time at home. We've been on the go more than we've been in the new house so that in and of itself is pure joy to come home to!

Uncle Andy's

A welcome respite in between Disneyland and Yosemite was a stop in L.A. at my brother's (yes, he's the guy with the stroller!) to visit his sweet little family.

In the summers Andy is lucky to get about a month off and this year he spent it doing "Daddy Daycare" for Maddie while his wife Meg worked.
Right off the bat the girls helped Andy pick lemons in his backyard and went to work squeezing them into lemonade.

More time with Maddie was a huge delight for the girls, and for Maddie.

We took a long walk around the reservoir near his house.
I think at some point I'm going to have to live in a place with more exotic foliage and trees than Oregon offers.

We chilled and we hung out. Their backyard is a beautiful backdrop for BBqing.

We posed with his Emmy.

We drew on his chalkboard wall.

We went to the Griffith Observatory and watched a show in the Planetarium.

Of course there was the requisite shot in front of the Hollywood sign. See that little white thing behind Jooge on the hill?

Andy's high school pal Starelli was in town so we saw him, too. I think Julia had a secret crush on him because when she plays with her princess barbie now she gives the princess's male counterpart his name.

I loved snuggling with Maddie. I will forever have an image of she and Andy emerging from the bedroom with morning face. Ah, it warms my heart to see my brother as a dad, and not just a dad but a great dad.

Meg worked much of the time we were there but it is always great to see her, too. Here she sports her new birthday dress, available at this Portland-based Etsy shop. (Had to plug it). I have one too and love love love it!
One cool thing: I got to go to a taping of The Bachelorette: Men Tell All because Meg works on the sets for the finale shows. As much as I hate to admit this, I have watched both Bachelor and Bachelorette since they began so a taping like this provided me with seven hours of nonstop entertainment and I loved every minute of it. Ate it up with a spoon. Thanks for getting me in, Meg!
I love my brother and his family so much and time together when we live far apart is golden.

The California Leg-Part One: Disneyland

When I was a kid, we never went to Disneyland. It's not as though I remember my friends going, or even necessarily cared. I just remember the fact that my parents invested in a cabin in the woods that we always went to instead of other grand faraway destinations. I visited Disneyland in college instead, which was a great way to do things.
Anyway, one thing we felt we were ready to do was to go to Disney with the girls this summer. At eight and six, their ages seemed perfect and with lots of sabbatical time on our hands, a road trip to California was planned, complete with a second leg to Yosemite after Disney. Cue the crowds/line portion of sabbatical.

We divided the driving into two days, and once there stayed at a Marriott near Disney which offered a daily shuttle to the park as well as a great breakfast spread each morning. We spent four days there, one which was dedicated to California Adventure. In my estimation, California Adventure has better food and Disneyland has better "cast member" uniforms. Check out the ones from Fantasyland-super cute, methinks!

Each time we came into the park we got to The Hub in a different way. The first day it was on an old fire truck. The next it was on a double decker bus. How fun to enter Disneyland somehow special! Anyone can walk! We walked the rest of the day! But when we arrived, we ARRIVED in style!

We did a lot of rides, but some of the more crazy ones my husband did solo or with my brother Andy, who joined us one of the days. One of the first CRAZY rides we went on was Space Mountain, which I remembered being my favorite. Somehow twenty years later I did NOT think it was a favorite. I remembered loving the treehouse, too but it's since been converted to Tarzan's treehouse and it's just not the same as the Swiss Family Robinson's tree house plus my old lady kicked in again as she had on Space Mountain and was a little leery of how high up off the ground we were.

Not only did Space Mountain rattle me, Avery was wailing at the end, so we avoided several "scarier" rides because of that. Basically if they had any sort of sign at the beginning about requiring good health to ride it, we did not all go on it. We still did Star Tours-we just looked at each other the whole time to make it through. Our speed was the coaster in Toon Town-good velocity, but short. That has become my kind of thrill at the age of 39. Avery loved the Dumbo ride, Julia the Storybook ride, my husband Space Mountain and me Pirates of the Carribean.
We enjoyed watching the parade a few times. It had big energy and many celebrity sightings.
Speaking of celebrities, unlike a lot of people I know, we did not schedule a meal with the characters but we had a chance encounter with Cinderella upon leaving Fantasyland. She spotted us and offered her hand up to Avery, commenting on what a beautiful princess she was and offering to take a picture with her. She smoothly added Julia to the mix and they both stood enraptured by her, which was a bit unexpected, really. Still, just proof of the magic as they both left the park with some kind of princess doll-Julia's was Snow White, and Avery's was the Little Mermaid. This huge stage where the princess coronations occur interested the princesses in our party.
We had amazing weather, nice and sunny, and the areas of the park that were the shady ones over near Louisianna and Adventureland provided great relief from the moments full of too much glare.
The food was fun to induldge in: Sundaes, powdered candy, pizza, hamburgers. Julia especially loved the frozen lemonade and Avery, the cotton candy! I enjoyed the chili lime corn myself.
If I had to create a photo scavenger hunt for a Disney-goer, I would put the following things on the list, all which we saw at Disney:

A family wearing matching t-shirts that say something like, "Grandma's Disney Adventure 2011"

Someone walking around chomping on a huge turkey leg

Brides and Grooms walking around with Bride and Groom Mouse Ears with Mr. and Mrs. Whoever stitched on the backs

Mr. Toad's house on the Storybook boat ride-it is so dang cute nestled into the bank and I did NOT get a picture but I wish I had (this was the closest I got, it's in lower left hand corner)

Barbells in Toon Town

Minnie's kitchen in Toon Town

The cool huge trees out on the island in Adventureland(and basically everywhere)

The super realistic model of Jack Sparrow during Pirates of the Carribean (my favorite ride)

Giant clover in A Bug's Land in California Adventure (we really loved this area)

The World of Color night time water show

Adorable plush versions of Mickey
Someone wearing a pair of Toms
Someone using a fan/mister

Okay, Tarzan's Treehouse (even though it will always be Swiss Family Robinson's Treehouse to me)

A sea of strollers parked en masse near big attractions

The Mad Tea Party and all the cool lanterns strung above it

Personalized parasols with ruffles

A robot named Asimo
All in all the kids were a GREAT age to take to Disney, and actually, so were we. Though exausted after four days, I think we were all completely affected by our visit there and the magic of Disney. We had huge smiles and felt the magic!